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Transsexual in Italian political scandal murdered

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ROME (Reuters) - A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician -- the centre-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome -- was found burnt to death in his home Friday. Police found a body following a fire in a basement flat in a neighbourhood frequented by transsexual prostitutes and court sources said magistrates were treating the death as murder.

Forensic tests were expected to identify the remains as those of a transsexual known only as Brenda, police said.

Brenda and another Brazilian transsexual were at the centre of a case involving the blackmail of former Lazio Governor Piero Marrazzo by four police officers who secretly filmed him having sex and taking drugs with one of the transsexuals.

Marrazzo, a former journalist with state broadcaster RAI who was elected governor in 2005, quit his post when the case came to light in October. He took refuge in a monastery outside Rome.

Of the four policemen arrested on blackmail charges, one was released, one is under house arrest and two are in custody.

Marrazzo has acknowledged that he paid prostitutes and took cocaine. However, he faces no criminal charges and neither did the two transsexuals, as prostitution is not a crime in Italy.

Marrazzo’s lawyer Luca Petrucci told reporters Brenda’s death was “really worrying news” and demanded police protection for the other transsexual in the case, who is known as Natalie.

Brenda had called the police 12 days ago after reporting being attacked in the street and having a mobile phone stolen.

“I can’t believe that last week this person was attacked and robbed and then a few hours ago burnt to death. We must find out what’s behind it,” said Petrucci, recalling an early 1990s case of a police gang who committed robberies and then killed the witnesses.

Writing by Stephen Brown; Editing by Matthew Jones